2022 Philippine Elections

Ex-poll chief calls for ‘public vetting’ of Duterte’s 2022 Comelec appointees

Dwight de Leon
Ex-poll chief calls for ‘public vetting’ of Duterte’s 2022 Comelec appointees

Alyssa Arizabal/Rappler

Duterte has the power to select 4 people to the Comelec en banc by February 2022, amid upcoming retirements and a currently vacant seat

Former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod appealed to the public to be vigilant of President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointees to the Comelec en banc in 2022, as the chief executive has the power to stack the institution with four more people ahead of election day.

Monsod pointed out that Chairman Sheriff Abas and Commissioner Rowena Guanzon – both the remaining appointees of late former president Benigno Aquino III to the en banc – as well as Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr., are retiring in February 2022.

The seven-member commission also currently has one vacant seat, and Duterte can fill that seat as soon as possible.

“There should be a public vetting of the appointing of the four new commissioners by February 2022. This can be a game-changer in the conduct of elections,” Monsod said during a seminar organized by the Management Association of the Philippines for the 2022 elections on Monday, October 25.

“If you have friends of senators or congressmen who are members of the Commission on Appointments, maybe you can get a special line to these people while they are conducting the questioning on live television,” he added.

Dr. Ronald Mendoza, dean of the Ateneo School of Government, also warned of a risk in credibility should President Rodrigo Duterte appoint more people from his hometown to the commission en banc.

At present, three of the six Comelec commissioners – Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo, and Aimee Ferolino – are from Davao.

“If those appointments actually fall short and again are coming from a particular city in the South, this is not going to be healthy for our democracy and can increase risks in terms of the credibility of the outcome of 2022,” Mendoza said.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), meanwhile, urged large organizations to start writing to institutions to express their concern about the upcoming vacancies in the Comelec.

“The Comelec chair is the most powerful person in the land on election day. Who that will be becomes even more important because we don’t want any puppets as a Comelec chair,” PPCRV chief Myla Villanueva said.

Why is this in the news now?

Talks of vacancies in the Comelec are gaining more steam, after one news website claimed that National Transmission Corporation President Melvin Matibag, also secretary-general of ruling party PDP-Laban, is being eyed by Duterte for the poll body chairmanship.

Matibag has denied hearing the supposed rumors, but the news prompted former Comelec commissioner Luie Guia to remind Duterte that the next election chief should be someone who is independent and does not have political colors.

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While all Comelec en banc members will be Duterte appointees by election day in 2022, the scenario is similar to 2016, when all Comelec commissioners by election day were appointed by Aquino.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez had said such a composition of the poll body on May 9, 2022 should not be a cause for concern.

“To say that the commissioners sitting now have somehow compromised their integrity just because of who put them there is to give short shrift to the commissioners who are sitting now. You are selling them short,” Jimenez had argued. – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.